Alastair Campbell denies that he ever said that no Cabinet Minister can survive a negative story lasting ten, eleven or 14 days. But even if he didn’t say it, it is not a bad rule and one that Amber Rudd has fallen foul of.
Rudd’s resignation is a result of the fact that more and more keeps coming on this story, and she is now faced with admitting that she either deliberately misled parliament or really didn’t know what was going on. She has gone before Monday’s statement in the Commons which would have been an exceptionally difficult moment for her. At some point, there is only so much a senior minister can take before there position becomes untenable, as I say in the podcast (click below).
Her departure causes multiple problems for Theresa May. First, it removes the firebreak between May and the whole Windrush scandal. The blame for how the Home Office operates will now land far more squarely on the longest serving Home Secretary of recent time. Secondly, it isn’t clear which senior Cabinet figure would continue the May legacy at the Home Office. Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt all have a very different view on immigration to Theresa May. None of them believe in either the tens of thousands target or that driving immigration right down, as opposed to controlling it, is desirable. Thirdly, whoever May appoints to be Home Secretary will be part of the Brexit inner Cabinet—and May is keen to keep that in balance. But it is not clear who the obvious replacement for Rudd is on that front. Fourthly, there is the issue of what Rudd will do on the backbenches in time. The parliamentary arithmetic is so tight in this hung parliament that the addition of even one more potential rebel on European matters would be problematic.
Within the Cabinet, Rudd was popular. She made a genuine attempt to find out where other ministers were coming from, particularly on Brexit. But she is ultimately paying the price for the fact that she didn’t feel that she could break with May’s Home Office legacy. This left her overseeing a suite of policies that she wasn’t enthusiastic about, an approach which culminated in tonight’s events.